Thu 25 Feb 2010
Filed under: ASEAN
Kuala Lumpur – As Myanmar plans for general elections this year, the country’s military rulers have announced their commitment to ASEAN and the international community to conduct a truly democratic election and ensure a “free and fair” electoral process.Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) has endorsed the statement that the country has asserted that it will respect the rights of its citizens as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter to which it is a signatory.
Though AIPMCE has endorsed, there have been virtually no visible signs of the junta’s willingness to adhere to democratic practice thus far and it still fails to uphold the rights of its citizens.
One example is the reported case of 3600 workers staging a protest on February 8th at their factories in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Yangon. The group, mostly women, temporarily stopped work to request better working conditions and benefits but was met with aggression.
Myanmar’s military regime reportedly deployed more than 50 truckloads of riot police and set up barbed-wire barricades to quell and contain the otherwise peaceful picket.
The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) commends the bravery of these workers and questions the means in which the regime chose to deal with the matter.
Under threat of violence, the workers accepted a compromise of a (USD) $2 – $5 wage increase per month, far less than their original request of $10, and returned to their factories. However, the workers reportedly continue to press for overtime payments, enforcement of public holidays and improvement of the substandard working conditions at the factories.
AIPMC’s committee members representing regional lawmakers are therefore left to call in question the commitment of Myanmar’s regime towards protecting and upholding rights.
“In light of the military regime’s threats of violence and history of using excessive force to quash opposition and peaceful protests, we are gravely concerned for the welfare and safety of these workers,” state AIPMC’s regional committee urging the regime to refrain from using violence and to abide by internationally accepted protocols in handling labour disputes.
AIPMC further urges ASEAN government leaders and ASEAN’s Secretary-General to intervene in the matter to closely monitor the situation in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone to ensure that the workers are not put in further danger and that their basic human rights are not violated.
Myanmar, as an ASEAN member, has pledged to promote and protect the rights of its citizens and therefore must show a willingness to act in accordance with principles of labor rights.
To do otherwise will suggest that Myanmar’s rulers are not serious in their claims of carrying out free and fair elections or their ability thereafter to lead a nation through good governance.
AIPMC further urges labor unions in the various ASEAN member states and the International Labor Organization to assist Burma’s workers in pursuing fair working conditions.